Archive for the ‘Adventure’ Category

Pop quiz at 1 AM

September 15, 2007

The night before last I met a few of my friends out at a bar. By 1 AM two of us were left. We finished up our beers and left the bar. My friend drove off and I remained behind in the parking lot for about 5 minutes to let my car warm up.

I’ve been having trouble with my car. The fuel pump seems to be going, so unless the car is really warm, it won’t run well at all. When I figured the car was warm, I pulled out of the lot and started to drive home. Almost immediately after making the right turn out of the parking lot, what should pass me going in the opposite direction but a cop car. No big deal, I thought.

As it turned out though, I hadn’t been paying attention while waiting for the car to warm up. The parking lot was well lit, and so I never noticed that I had neglected to turn on my headlights. When I pulled out of the lot my lights were still off.

Big mistake.

Not 60 seconds went by when I looked into my rearview mirror to see the cop car behind me, lights flashing. “Oh, here we go,” I muttered. I put the dome light of my car on and pulled over.

Now, I wasn’t any more nervous than I ever am when pulled over, because I knew that I had not had too much to drink. As a rule, I drink moderately. The cop came up to my window and said why he had stopped me. I explained about the fuel pump and the lights in the lot — an honest mistake, right?

A few more pointed questions by the officer, and I had to admit where I was coming from and how many beers I had had. Remember, he had to have seen me pull out of the bar, and even one beer leaves an unmistakable trace on the breath.

He asked if I thought I was okay to drive, and I told him I believed I was.

And then, in a very friendly, “just doing my job” tone of voice he explained that he was pulling DUI patrol that night. “How about you step out of the car and we’ll make sure you’re okay to drive?”

So there you have it — I was on my way to taking my first ever field sobriety test.

Again, I knew how much I had had to drink, and while drinking I always keep in mind the charts we’re all given in high school health class mapping out drinks per hour according to your weight and the resulting blood alcohol level. I felt confident I was okay to drive and that the cop asked me to step out of the car because he had no reason to believe I wasn’t lying about how many drinks I had consumed.

I think perhaps the police are lied to so often that they begin to lose all faith in humanity.

The cop acted very professionally the whole time, a fact I appreciated. I’ve noticed that police officers treat me far differently now than when I was 20 and being pulled over every few months for doing 76 in a 55. I suppose I can count this as one of the few benefits of growing older.

Before we started any of the tests, I looked right at him and in a friendly but diplomatically firm manner told him, “Officer, I’ll do anything you ask; but I’m not reciting the alphabet backwards. I couldn’t do that if you gave me Ritalin.” He cracked a good natured smile and said not to worry — he doesn’t ask anyone to recite the alphabet backwards.

He asked me to follow the tip of his pen with my eyes, without turning my head; to recite the alphabet beginning at letter “D” and ending at “S”; and to stand on one foot with my other foot 6 inches off the ground, while counting “one-one-thousand, two-one-thousand…” He didn’t stop me until I got to 30. He then asked me to blow into some kind of breathalyzer — though apparently, the portable version he used is meant only to contribute to giving the cop enough evidence to haul you in for the real chemical test. In New York, the results from the box I blew into aren’t admissible in court.

A lawyer would tell you to refuse any of these field sobriety tests. And such advice is unequivocally sound — if you’re going to fail them. In the end, it’s your call. Lawyers are in the business of billing hourly.

The cop told me to have a seat in my car and to wait for him. A minute later he returned my license and registration and bid me get home safely — and to make sure I put my headlights on.

I started my car; put my headlights on; double-checked that they were on; pulled off of the shoulder; noticed my heart skipping a beat, and then another; and made my way home.

I’ve always been a good test taker.